Marie has gutted many old houses over the years, and she hasn’t always taken the precautions she should have:
Somehow I’m wary of lead paint, wearing full body-armour and a ventilator to strip wood, but oblivious to asbestos wearing only a t-shirt and shorts to put in a floor on top of the attic insulation.
And asbestos is genuinely nasty stuff, though that nastiness only recently persuaded the Canadian government to allow asbestos production to die in Quebec:
The future of asbestos mining in Quebec ground to a halt [in 2013] after the newly elected government of Pauline Marois announced it would not honour a commitment of the previous government to lend the Jeffery Mine $58 million to restart production…
As recently as 2010, Canada was producing 150,000 tonnes of asbestos annually, all of it in Quebec, and exporting 90 per cent — worth about $90 million — to developing countries.
More than 50 countries ban the mining and use of asbestos because it causes cancer, but Canada, traditionally a major exporter, has successfully lobbied in the past to keep it off a UN list of hazardous substances.
Residents of the area were of course delighted when the “White Gold” was discovered in 1879; the town of Asbestos was founded around the mine. They don’t mention it so much anymore, preferring to talk about “cultural, social and sporting organizations.”
And this is what gets to me. Between 2001 and 2011, the population of the town grew, from 6580 to 7096, and the median age of its residents went up by four and a half years: 48.4 for men, 53.5 for women. This does not sound promising.